I don’t want to call myself a Christian anymore. To clarify, I don’t want to be known as an American Evangelical Christian. For years, I wore that label comfortably and confidently, as it has been the core of my identity since my earliest memories. But now, that label makes me uncomfortable, and even disgusted, and I want the rest of my life to be defined by something very different.
As a child, my Christian faith was just as much a part of my identity as my brown hair, my shyness, and my love of softball. My family was at church every Sunday, we prayed before dinner, and read the Bible before bed. I went to church camps, youth retreats, and Christian concerts. I attended a Christian high school, and pledged a Christian sorority in college. The Christian label accompanied a good majority of my activities, even through early adulthood.
Today, as a not-so-young adult and a mother, I find a lot about my Christian upbringing problematic. And now, in 2017, my eyes are wide open to how much of the world views my faith, and in many ways I don’t disagree with that perception. I’m horrified and embarrassed at the ways American Christianity is promoting nationalism, political agendas totally contradictory to Christ’s teachings, and a president who in no way represents the Jesus I was taught to love.
The adults who mandated I wear a one piece swimsuit to church camp (to fulfill some arbitrary standard of “modesty”) also cemented a core belief that sex outside of marriage is sinful and damaging. And I believed them. I followed all the rules and wore the right clothes. I saved myself until marriage, which had it’s own far-reaching consequences, regardless of how Biblically I behaved. And then, many of these same adults endorsed Donald Trump for president, even after undeniable evidence that he is an adulterer, misogynist, and sexual assaulter. And I am devastated.
The Christian leaders who taught me that every life is sacred, who sang Jesus loves the little children...all are precious in his sight, are silent or make flimsy excuses about escalating racism and police brutality in our country. They celebrate travel bans that discriminate based on religion, but are all for Christians being able to discriminate because of their religion. They boast tagline in their church bulletins saying Come as You Are...but wait, not if you’re gay.
I will never understand how so many Christians who have worn, marked up Bibles and prayer journals continue to support the political party who seems intent on destroying access to healthcare for the most vulnerable Americans. The poor and disabled in this country (as well as millions of children) are facing massive cuts to Medicaid. Without Medicaid, how are these people going to get the healthcare they need to live? For those that say it’s the church’s job to take care of the sick and poor, where is the evidence for that being a sustainable, long term solution? Because right now, the church is missing the need by a long shot. I don’t believe the church has a responsibility to pay my child’s exorbitant medical bills, but I do believe as a Christian, I have a responsibility to graciously contribute to the programs that are capable of meeting those needs. Most of the time, that means I pay my taxes so programs like Medicaid can exist to take care of the poor and disabled.
I feel like a child who has discovered her parents have been lying to her for decades. How could I have missed this? How did I not realize how off I was about the religion that shaped the path of my entire life? How do I reconcile that both elders and peers in my faith think a president who bullies journalists, mocks the disabled, and repeatedly disparages women’s physical appearances is perfectly acceptable, so long as he is “pro-life”, “pro-Israel” and “pro-America”? It seems to me that the selling out of an entire religious moral code is a steep price to pay for a Supreme Court nominee or two.
I’ve been told I need to pray for our leaders. What exactly am I praying for? Because prayer alone isn’t going to fix the mess that our country is in. Prayer alone isn’t going to save Medicaid for millions. Prayer isn’t going to allow refugees fleeing terror to enter our country. Prayer isn’t going to give a desperate woman seeking an abortion resources and support so she is able to keep her baby. And prayer certainly isn’t going to take away Trump’s twitter and keep him from acting like a junior high boy with no filter. So yes, I will pray. But I’m also going to do something.
I’m not going to hide behind my Bible, or my privilege, and stay quiet about injustice because it may not impact me personally. I’m not going to show up at church on Sunday, talk about God with a bunch of people just like me, and pretend that makes me a good Christian, or even a good person. I’m not going to stay out of politics, despite being whispered about behind my back by pearl-clutching Christians who find “liberal” and “Jesus” to be incompatible terms. The Jesus I know was loving, fair, and gentle, but he was also bold. And political.
I really don’t know where I go from here. I’m frustrated, angry, and lonely. I’ve lost friends, and the foundation of my entire life has been cracked, probably irreparably. I don’t know how to answer my children’s spiritual questions, because none of my answers feel genuine anymore. But I’ve decided I don’t need all the answers immediately, and I’m content to be discontent and wandering a bit right now. I may be disillusioned by religion, but I don’t doubt God and His power in my life. I also don’t doubt that He loves me, even with my instinct to walk away. I still want to be a Christian, but need a new definition of what that truly means.